Laguna Hills compensation fiasco focus of Legislative hearing this week


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PRESS RELEASE, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 23, 2010

CONTACT: Bill Kogerman, Email: kogerman4council@cox.net, Phone: 949-855-9889

Laguna Hills Compensation Fiasco Focus of Legislative Hearing This Week

Mayor, City Council Candidate Kogerman Offer Contrasting Testimony
Kogerman to Mayor: ‘Read My Report!’

A Senate Legislative Oversight Hearing on “Transparency & Accountability” featured speakers who focused on the excess compensation of the Laguna Hills City Manager and associated reporting problems.

Held Wednesday at Rancho Santiago Community College in Santa Ana, the committee, led by Sen. Christine Kehoe, San Diego, were startled by testimony of Prof. Fred Smoller, Public Administration Program Director, Brandman University. Smoller’s graduate students assisted Laguna Hills City Council Candidate Barbara Kogerman in her research into Orange County’s city manager compensation which she launched after uncovering the $460,809 compensation of the Laguna Hills City Manager in 2009.

In outlining lessons learned in the report, Smoller told the committee he was shocked by the arrogance of some city officials in response to the report. A city manager featured in the report phoned him with “How dare you?” and demanded to meet with the students to “set them straight” during a 45-minute tirade. One city council member associated with abuses cited in the report visited Smoller’s boss to try to discredit the report and demand that Smoller be disciplined.

Sen. Kehoe asked Kogerman to speak first during the Advice and Comment portion of the agenda. Kogerman, who has become a national spokesperson for compensation reform and accountability in local government, offered a first-hand account of the difficulty of obtaining the information she required. It took Laguna Hills five weeks to respond to her request for dollar costs for provisions of management employee agreements, and half of Orange County’s cities had similar difficulties answering similar questions. All of Kogerman’s figures came directly from the cities.

Kogerman urged the committee to strengthen the Public Records Request Act so agencies can’t avoid providing timely, accurate data; to define compensation so voters can know every possible expenditure, not just what the IRS considers taxable income; and to provide data that is centrally located, uniformly reported, easily understood and formatted for comparable analysis by population served, number of employees, operating budget, and other variables.

In contrast, Laguna Hills Mayor Randal Bressette in later testimony said he had been having difficulty obtaining information from his city manager about how much he is compensated by the city council. He added that the city council majority would only include compensation items such as vacation buy-outs to its on-line report on city management compensation if ordered to do so by state law, and asked for laws to require more comprehensive reporting.

Sen. Lou Correa, Santa Ana, called Bressette’s comments “disturbing.”

Three panels of spokespersons including the State Auditor addressed the committee, and most urged legislation in line with conclusions of the Kogerman report to require all state and local agencies to clearly report all different forms of compensation in a centralized system with links from local agency websites and easy access by interested citizens.


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